Part of the reason I love writing recipes is because of the research process. Reading, watching and yes, eating are all part of the job. It’s fascinating to learn about a family and their culture through their recipes. The process makes me feel like part historian and part detective. Sometimes you have to dig deep because, as many of us have discovered, retrieving an old recipe doesn’t always come easy. Many recipes exist only in the memory and can only be translated via demonstration. How many of us have had a relative tell us “I don’t have it written down, but I can show you.”? Those moments are priceless because they are the very essence of family and tradition. What really connects us through food are the memories attributed to a certain dish and the person we remember making it. Smell, taste and touch are all sense that can instantly remind us of a time, place, or person and nothing does that better than food.
Whenever I set out to create a new recipe I do everything I can to learn about the way it’s traditionally made and then I set out to make it my own. Sometimes the changes are minor and other times more drastic. Reading this you might be saying “I do the same thing with my recipes”, and that’s probably true. The wonderful world of cooking is this amazing mix of traditional and new ideas. Each recipe has a history and a story all it’s own, making it as unique and special as it’s creator.
These stuffed peppers are a great example of re-working a classic— a slight spin on a family favorite. I took our family stuffed pepper recipe and decided to bump up the flavor a bit by adding fresh herbs and swapping out traditionally used white rice for super fragrant jasmine rice. The change may not *seem* all that drastic but I assure you they took this dish from simple to special. The flavor is unique all the while preserving the traditional recipe. I think my Grandma would be proud.
Note: this recipe can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the sausage. You can even add in beans to bump up the protein. If using beans, stir pre-cooked beans into the rice mixture before filling peppers. Bake as indicated below.
Serves 4- 8 (depending on portion size)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for greasing pan and drizzling over top of peppers
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 chicken or pork sausages, casings removed
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 cups cooked jasmine rice
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (15 ounce can) of diced tomatoes, well drained of its juice
4 red bell peppers, cut in half, stems and seeds removed
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan with foil and coat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
2. In a large skillet heat remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add in onion, garlic and sausage meat. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, break up the chicken sausage. Cook sausage until meat is no longer pink and onions are soft, about 6-8 minutes. Allow to cool while you put together the other components of the filling.
3. In a large bowl combine rice, 1/2 cup of cheese, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper, diced tomatoes and cooled sausage mixture. Stir gently until combined. Place each of the peppers, cut side up onto prepared baking sheet and divide filling amongst them. Top evenly with remaining 1/4 cup of parmigiano cheese and a sprinkling of breadcrumbs. Drizzle each with a little olive oil and bake until peppers are tender, about 25-30 minutes. Serve peppers warm as a side dish or as a main coarse alongside a salad.
Christina Stanley-Salerno is a mama, recipe developer, food stylist, photographer and blogger atTakeBackYourTable.com. She loves cooking for and with her family. Life is hectic, but Christina is passionate about mealtime because she believes that family meals are the glue that holds everyone together. Creating simple, quick and healthy meals is her specialty and her trick to keeping the family meal a reality, even on busy weeknights.
Follow her on Twitter @TakeBackTables